Oftentimes, the words accuracy, precision, and resolution are often mixed up or misused altogether. While this is forgivable in day to day use, it is taboo when it comes to science or engineering topics. Let’s differentiate the three and discuss their implication in sports science (i.e. lactate testing).
Before you proceed, please check out our article discussing the difference between Lactate Testing and Lactate Threshold Testing here.
Accuracy – How close a reading is to the actual value. Precision – How close several readings are to one another. Resolution – The smallest interval that can be measured.
First, let’s discuss how Accuracy and Precision relate to one another.
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Let’s look at the first scenario. The device/method is precise, which means that the samples are close together. However, since it isn’t accurate, the measurements miss the actual value by a significant amount.The second scenario is accurate but not precise. The measurements are close to the actual value yet tend to be spread out. This is better than the previous example.Of course, without any precision or accuracy, the measurements are almost worthless. They are just rough estimates.The most desirable measurements are both precise and accurate. This means the readings are repeatable, consistent, and has a minimal percentage error.
As you can see in the example above,precision is nothing without accuracy. When a device gives out consistent readings, it does not guarantee accuracy. It might miss the target altogether. However, if a device is less precise but accurate, it will yield better results as long as multiple readings are averaged or its standard deviation is calculated. Of course, accuracy and precsiion are both desirable especially if we want to be scientific in our approach. Nonetheless, I would still priortize accuracy over precision
Another concept that is often misunderstood is Resolution.
Resolution is the smallest interval that can be measured. This means that readings that have low resolution have less significant digits compared to those that have better resolution. This is often confused with either accuracy or precision.
An accurate reading may have low resolution, while an inaccurate reading may have high resolution. The same thing goes for precision. It may sound confusing but let’s shed light on by giving an example:
Consider Athlete A: He has an actual threshold value of 200.00w.
With this example we can see that readings despite having very high resolutions are worthless if they aren’t accurate. In fact, in terms of usability, high resolution measurements often become trivial when compared to measurements with good/average resolution. This is because such resolution isn’t always necessary.
Going back to how this applies to lactate testing, no matter how good a device/method’s measurement resolution is, it’s practically worthless without accuracy. Thankfully, through blood lactate testing, we don’t need to worry about such a dilemma.
Blood lactate testing will give us very accurate and precise results with good resolution. Aside from getting the gold standard in lactate threshold readings, blood lactate testing also has the exclusive benefits of accurate training zone setting and anaerobic/aerobic assessment. Based on these additional data, we can plot out the best “Plan of Attack” that each athlete needs to progress rapidly. These are benefits that cannot be achieved through non-invasive means.
Once again, I have to mention UFC Champion Connor McGregor’s famous quote: “Timing beats speed, precision beats power.” I then say “Accuracy and precision beat resolution, and understanding the cause beats observing the effects.” #KnowTheDifference #KnowYourNumbers #LactateTesting #FlyingDonVCoaching
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